World Food Day has been celebrated annually since 1981. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has committed this day to forward initiatives on eradicating hunger across the world. This year’s theme, “Our actions are our future”,  pushes for the importance of a healthy diet in addressing problems not only on malnutrition but on hunger as well.

Over 820 million people in the world are suffering from hunger. But what FAO points out about food security is that it isn’t solely reliant on quantity but on quality too. Malnutrition affects one in three people and can manifest as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, obesity, stunting, and wasting.

An unhealthy diet along with a sedentary lifestyle is the leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart problems, and certain cancers. Worse, it is a major contributor to health-related death. More than five million children under the age of five die every day due to malnutrition. 

Due to globalization, urbanization, and income growth, the eating habits of people have changed. Food choices that are fast and convenient are prioritized over healthier options. Meanwhile, access to safe and nutritious food is a challenge faced by people with limited resources. Some don’t even have options due to crises such as natural disasters and climate change.

In a booklet released by the FAO for World Food Day 2019, it was emphasized that collaboration by countries, private sectors, farmers, and consumers is vital in achieving zero hunger and sustainable food communities. Here’s an excerpt: 

What can countries do?

  • Design and implement policies in line with set national dietary guidelines and nutrition standards 
  • Cover all sectors—individuals, families, and communities
  • Raise consumer awareness on healthier food choices through campaigns and programs
  • Adopt production practices that focus on the nutritional quality of yield and support solutions related to such
  • Reinforce agrobiodiversity

What can private sectors do?

  • Develop and provide consumers with affordable and nutritious food choices
  • Pull out promotions on food with high sugar, salt, and fat content
  • Include easy-to-understand nutritional information on food products 
  • Improve nutrition and food safety

What can farmers do?

  • Plant a wide variety of nutritious food
  • Turn to local, small-scale fishery production to generate income and source vitamin-rich food
  • Utilize resources sustainably and efficiently while adapting methods to climate change
  • Invest in storage methods to conserve products and reduce food waste from harvest and distribution

What can we do?

  • Increase intake of nutritious crops (such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes) and lessen consumption of high-sugar, -salt and -fat food
  • Consider how food affects the environment—try to avoid food produced through excessive use of natural resources
  • Opt for traditional rather than industrialized and convenience food
  • Revisit the nutritional value of local food and learn how to prepare and preserve them

The UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goal number two is Zero Hunger. As World Food Day commits itself to this goal, the fact that food is a basic and fundamental human right is finally given emphasis. This worldwide celebration is proof that healthy and sustainable food choices can go a long way—possibly even to the extent of completely ending world hunger.